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ACE 2011 & intellectual elitism

The Australian Conference of Economists is being organised by William Coleman at the Australian National University this year from 10-14th July.  You can register to attend here.  It has a good range of invited speakers. I am always surprised at the high quality papers presented at ACE meetings from those working in parts of the public sector and from less prominent economics departments.

Over recent years economists from some of the major economics departments have (for the most part) tended not to attend this conference – leading economists from the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University have been conspicuous by their absence.  In my view this is a serious error of judgement on their part.

(i)  because it is important for the intellectual giants of Australian economics to gain an impression on what is happening in Australian economics and to interact both academically and socially with their fellow Australian economists.

(ii) because there is an important role for these intellectual Titans from these austere and renown institutions to help raise the standards of the rest of the profession in Australia. Come on fellas show us how it should be done.  There is just so much we can learn from youse. Inspire us!

As a straightforward matter of resource allocative efficiency I wonder if economics schools in Australia – and the Australian taxpayer who pays most of the bills – get as much academic value from $5000 spent on an 20 minute presentation at an international conference or the same sort of presentation at the ACE for about one fifth the price.  Particularly given the local externalities and agglomeration benefits from the latter sorts of meetings.

7 comments to ACE 2011 & intellectual elitism

  • HD

    Hi Harry. You do raise several good points. The need for the boys from the big end of town to spread their knowledge/insights around and value for taxpayers dollars.

    As someone who occasionally attends, I must say that the ACE is somewhat of a disappointment. Sure, there are some great papers and it really is an excellent opportunity to meet others in the field. However, running 5 parallel sessions really sucks. And much of the feedback is poor.

    ACE cost advantage is not as low as you make it out to be. There are many field specific conferences/workshops (both within Oz and os) that provide better value for taxpayers dollars. These offer the presenter an opportunity for greater feedback and better networking. Naturally, it is up to department managers to ensure that conference funds are allocated efficiently. Sadly, that is a rare skill in academia.

  • hc

    I think HD that part of the reason for the disappointment is that these “boys from the big end of town” do not attend. Major universities that get the bulk of public funding should have a development role with respect to economics in Australia. There is a fair bit of selfishness here that comprises a “Prisoners Dilemma”. The cooperative solution where there was much broader attendance would make everyone better off.

    The parallel sessions are partly a way of securing funding for attendees (“we will only fund if you present a paper”) but also discuss offbeat topics that there is often particular interest in.

  • Liam Lenten

    Harry, I too will be missing from ACE, but only because I instead chose the WEAI Pacific-Rim conference at QUT in April…this is a good international conference that just happened to be in Australia this year…producing a cheap conference trip relative to the same conference in other years. Also, there were numerous accomplished international delegates in my narrow field at that conference, which could also constitute an argument for bypassing ACE. Having said all that, very few of the ‘top-end’ cohort you mentioned were at that conference anyway.

  • HD

    Hi Harry. Perhaps Oz Eco Departments should start sending folks to ACE even if they are not presenting a paper. That should reduce the congestion and improve the experience for everyone. Perhaps the Eco Society should think about strategies to encourage this.

  • I’ve never been to one and would have liked to have attended this year, especially as it is in Canberra. Unfortunately, I have to be at the IPCC meeting in Korea at the same time. I’m not big on going to conferences because mostly you don’t get much useful feedback so prefer to go to ones in my field where I know more people if I do go. The only ones I’ve been to in Australia are AARES, ANZSEE and once the IAG (Geography). Oh yes, MODSIM too once. And I organized the 2000 ISEE meeting.

  • I will be there at that time but for other conferences on Asia Pacific and Climate change. Really hope that I can drop by ACE sometimes then.

  • Totaram

    Simple question of funding and time and the famous RQE, ARE or whatever it is called now. No point presenting a paper in any conference at all! Oh maybe it might count at a C level but what is the use of that?
    Enjoy being an academic in Oz!